Sunday, May 13, 2007

Why I Hate Mother's Day.

I have never liked Mother's Day. I don't like Father's Day, either, but that one tends to fly under the radar quite a bit compared to Mother's Day. Right or wrong, with Mother's Day, I feel pressure. With Father's Day, I feel that anything I offer - card, gift, warm sentiment - will be accepted (except, perhaps, by Bill Cosby, who has often complained in his stand-up act and in his television show that his kids' Father's Day presents lacked evidence of care).

But the bar is significantly higher for Mother's Day. It's not that it's set by my mother, particularly, but culturally, this is the one moment when we are all supposed to show our mothers just how much we appreciate them, and the event takes on a kind of sickening tribute to Stepfordism. The cards always focus on all the laundry and cleaning and baking mom always did with little appreciation from the rest of her family (who, in Hallmark-land, never did any of these things themselves). They worship the selfless sacrifice of Hallmark-land mothers.

OK. I'll say it. Hallmark-land bears little resemblance to the real world. In how many families these days are mothers solely responsible for the housework? They may do more of it than other family members, but I'll bet many or most older kids are helping with laundry and cooking and cleaning - that is, if the family doesn't "outsource" this work to a paid employee.

Further, how many of our mothers are set to "selfless sacrifice" all the time? Of course, this is part of a parent's job, to sacrifice for our children and to put their needs first. But it is not ALL of a parent's job, nor is it something that we should - or could - do all the time. A child should see his or her parents as real people, and that means that parents should sometimes put their own needs first. And children, too, should learn that being part of a family means making sacrifices and compromises for and with the other members. It doesn't just happen from the parents on down.

Then, too, Ellen Goodman points out how false the pronouncements of Mother's Day appreciation ring when we see how poorly moms fare in the workplace (not dads, by the way!). We pay a lot of lip service to the importance of family, but we don't think twice about putting moms in the workplace out to pasture on the mommy track.

But none of this is really why I hate Mother's Day. At bottom, I hate it because it is a trumped-up, co-opted holiday. It had its origins in a radical movement to promote peace and disarmament, first, and later, to involve women in fighting for better sanitation. Noble goals. And this has been turned into an excuse to spend money on greeting cards, flowers, jewelry, and restaurants. From a political movement to a lavish expenditure on one's own individual mother, without thought of mothers - and children - who could really use our help.

14 comments:

Sassywho said...

lol, it seems as if we were having the same thoughts this morning.

i'm not a mother, so i can't speak as authority, but frankly things like "thanks for having the house clean, thanks for cutting the crust off of my pb&j" "thanks for being my rock when i was working those crazy hours and never saw you or the kids" would be met with a "gee, thanks hun" but i would silently be screaming "i didn't need a fucking PhD to cut crusts off of any stinking bread". you know?

Sassywho said...

oh, and then i would feel like a bad mother because while my life very well may revolve around my children, i'm not sure that would be what i wanted.

Danielle's Daily life said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Danielle's Daily life said...

That article makes me feel like we are supposed to be resenting our children, because we don't get a paycheck for raising them.

I hate mother's day and father's day, too, but I am lucky- my mom's birthday is in May, and my dad's in June. I get away with not acknowledging it by making it a birthday gift, too. Takes out a lot of the puke factor.

Erin said...

I could not agree with you more. I’m planning to suggest an alternative Mother’s Day celebration at my church (instead of handing out carnations to all the mothers on the way out of the service—geez, what kind of message does that send to the non-moms??) that draws attention to and calls for action about the issues of mothers in other parts of the world (thanks for the Save Darfur and Save the Children links). Or maybe even helping some single moms in our own community. There’s way too much to do to settle for handing out a few flowers and calling it good. And I agree that if our country was half as enamored with motherhood as we claim to be, we would have completely different policies. Family values my foot.

plain(s)feminist said...

instead of handing out carnations to all the mothers on the way out of the service—geez, what kind of message does that send to the non-moms??

Yeah, that's another thing that bugs me. It's not that I don't think that parents deserve appreciation. It's that I think Mother's Day is part of the brainwashing of "you must become a mother to be fulfilled as a woman." There's no day of appreciation for "non-Mothers." I just don't like the way it puts being a mother up on a pedestal...

Danielle's Daily life said...

In Russia, I do know that they have a "woman's day" instead of "mother's day". When I took Russian language, my teacher told me about it, and told me you don't have to be a mother to be honored.

Anonymous said...

I like the idea of "Women's" Day.
I am the oldest (only)daughter of a Paranoid Schizophrenic. My childhood was a living hell. One time as an adult someone put on "womb sounds" for people to meditate to. I ran out and had a full fledged panic attack. Go figure!

Also I don't have children. So there's nothing like an official day of the year to hate something - Gee thanks Hallmark, restaurants, long distance co's, florists for your "Money Day guilt trip" holiday.

Also this is my annual do not go anywhere near church day.

My DH and I went for a boat ride, and will stay home and enjoy each other until it is "safe" to venture out again.

Glad to find this spot!!

Anonymous said...

Great post! I couldn't agree with you more. I'm a mom of 2 and stay home, yet I DETEST mother's day! Why? Because frankly, even though I love my kids, and even though I do like staying home w/ them at times, I just think mother's day is such a self-serving holiday. It seems that mother's day is the perfect holiday for those women with exceptionally low self-esteem whose lives have no purpose other than their children. It's especially the "frumpy" moms (sorry if this PI) that seem to speak up about how much they're family and community owes them. Makes me ashamed of being included in the same statistical subgroup. I mean, don't get me wrong. I also think I sacrifice for my family, but that's exactly what bugs me- if you are a mom (especially if you choose the Stepfordian route) and act all selfless and what not, then why all of a sudden do you NEED a holiday to "pay you back" for all those oh-so self-less sacrificies? If these moms are so secure in what they are doing, they wouldn't need a holiday to affirm their "status" in life, they'd just get on with it and be content. Plus, there are so many GREAT women who do SO MUCH for this world without needing to pop out children to affirm their worth as a woman...so yeah, drop mother's day and make it woman's day.

Plain(s)feminist said...

Funny - I was going to repost this for this year's anti-tribute and didn't get around to it, but I see folks are finding it, nevertheless. New commenters - how'd you find it? I'm just curious.

A Little Gnocchi said...

Well it is 2009 and your original post was 2007. I found it on page 3 of a Google search "alternative mother's day". The first page of the google search was all different types of flowers...I was looking for other stuff like these Diaper Drives for Mother's Day (http://helpamotherout.org and http://www.tucsonmama.com/2009/04/27/mothers-day-diaper-drive/) The focus of both drives being to help out families who are struggling with some of the basics that cost too bloody much: diapers for the young, tampons & pads for women, incontinence pads for the elderly or infirm.

ps. As an immigration just got to say thanks for the pro-immigration and I vote badge display.

Plain(s)feminist said...

Gnocchi,
Thanks for your post. I'm going to re-post and include your links!!

Anonymous said...

I have an anxiety attack every mother's day without fail. I have no mother and have never had anything like one in the last 30 years. My mother died when I was 5 years old. I don't have children and the whole mother child relationship is a mystery to me.

Someone told me, "Happy Mother's Day" this morning. I felt sick to my stomach. I completely forgot it was this day. I usually get to hide from the world... but I am working this year in a unique position with no days off. I have been in an office all day and I cannot get away from it.

Okay... going to be sick now.

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